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KFOR Press Update: Mitrovica 22 Feb 2000

Source
Posted
Originally published
by Lt.-Cdr. Philip Anido, KFOR Spokesperson
Pristina, 22 February 2000
Today in Mitrovica

KFOR troops are preparing to recommence the search for weapons in several neighborhoods of Mitrovica. The search operation, dubbed Operation Ibar, was suspended yesterday because of the mass demonstration march.

Searches for illegal weapons in homes and buildings by KFOR troops and UNMIK police are a necessary part of the peacekeeping operations. KFOR is maintaining a high level of presence in Mitrovica using foot patrols, vehicle check points, and static guards in minority neighbourhoods and patrimonial sites.

Yesterday in Mitrovica

A march of 25,000 people from Pristina to Mitrovica took place yesterday as a demonstration for the unity of Mitrovica.

The demonstration was officially approved by all parties in Kosovo's newly formed, UN-led Joint Interim Administrative Council. The crowds assembled in Pristina and were joined along the highway by citizens from other communities.

The soldiers were required to provide security for the marchers and to prevent any possible unrest. They were also tasked to prevent the protesters from entering Mitrovica as a security measure to calm the tensions, which are already high there.

The protesters were calling for a unified Mitrovica, which is the objective of the international community. While most of the demonstrators remained peaceful, some broke through the KFOR and UNMIK police cordons and entered the city centre to join other protesters already in the city.

KFOR Canadian, British and French Gendarmerie were on the front line to control the highly excited crowd. They reacted with commendable control and their disciplined teamwork clearly averted any violent clashes and property damage.

KFOR troops were required to use tear gas on several occasions to keep the Albanian crowds from swarming across the Western Bridge to the Serb dominated north side.

Several leaders, including the Commander of KFOR, General Dr. Klaus Reinhardt, talked to the protesters and appealed to them to demonstrate peacefully.

As the 6 p.m. curfew and dusk approached, the crowds dispersed. It is reported that the road back to Pristina experienced the largest traffic jam on record.

Events and incidents in Kosovo during the last 24 hours:

Searches and Weapons Confiscations

On Sunday night two pistols were confiscated from an Albanian man at a vehicle checkpoint near Petrovo (MNB Centre). During a subsequent search of his house, other illegal weapons, including ammunition, were confiscated.

Incidents and Injuries

Yesterday morning, two KFOR patrols and an ambulance assisted at a fire in a block of flats in Dakovica (MNB West). Tragically one elderly Albanian woman died in the fire, which was caused by an electrical failure.

On Sunday evening a KFOR patrol reported that a grenade was thrown into an occupied Serb house in Gnjilane (MNB East). This is the third such attack of this house since 12 February.